If you store important data on your computer hard drive, you might want to think twice about how reliable it is. Hard drives are mechanical devices that can fail at any time, and the consequences can be devastating. You could lose your photos, videos, documents, music, and more in a blink of an eye. How likely is this to happen? Well, according to a report by Backblaze, a cloud backup service that monitors the performance of over 180,000 hard drives in its data centers, the annualized failure rate (AFR) of hard drives in 2021 was 1.54%. That means that for every 100 hard drives in use, about one or two will fail every year.
But that’s not the whole story. The AFR varies widely depending on the make and model of the hard drive. Some hard drives are more reliable than others, and some are downright risky. For example, Backblaze found that the 4TB Toshiba MD04ABA400V had an AFR of 4.07% in Q2 2021, which is more than twice the average. On the other hand, the 16TB Western Digital WUH721816ALE6L0 had zero failures in Q2 2021, which is impressive for such a high-capacity drive.
So how can you tell which hard drive to trust and which to avoid? Well, you can’t rely on the manufacturer’s specifications or warranty alone. They don’t tell you how the drive will perform in real-world conditions, such as temperature, vibration, power fluctuations, and usage patterns. The best way to judge the reliability of a hard drive is to look at actual data from independent sources, such as Backblaze’s reports. They publish their hard drive test data every quarter, and they also provide historical data since 2013. You can download their raw data and analyze it yourself, or you can read their blog posts that summarize their findings and insights.
Of course, even the most reliable hard drive can fail unexpectedly due to external factors, such as physical damage, malware, human error, or natural disasters. That’s why you should always have a backup plan for your data. Whether you use an external hard drive, a cloud service, or both, make sure you have a copy of your data somewhere safe and accessible. You never know when your hard drive might betray you.